When designing their flags, countries need to decide on a color scheme and style that accurately reflect their nation’s history, people, and prosperity. But if you look a little deeper into the stories of some of these flags, you’ll discover hidden symbolism and obscure facts that might cause you to do a double take next time you see them waving in the wind.
For instance, the U.S. flag featuring 50 stars, arguably the most famous world flag, was first dreamed up in 1958 by an Ohio high-school student for a class project. Robert Heft figured that Hawaii and Alaska would soon become states, so he borrowed his mother’s sewing machine and added two more stars to the existing design. Heft’s teacher awarded him a “B-” for his efforts, but assured him that if Congress accepted Heft’s submission, he would have his grade changed to an A. Sure enough, in 1959, Heft earned his higher grade, winning him spots both at the head of the class and in American history.
How did other countries arrive at their modern flags? Some have, in their designs, gone beyond basic colors and patterns and thought more globally. Here’s a look at five nations that have designed their banners to be artistically unique and, as a result, full of life and tradition:
The Brazilian flag’s stars represent the country’s 26 states and its Federal District, but the key difference from the U.S.’ use of stars is in their design and placement. In fact, they represent actual stars in the sky as they would have been positioned on November 15, 1889 at 8:30pm over Rio de Janeiro — forever commemorating the moment when several well known constellations (such as the Southern Cross and Scorpio) could be seen. Whenever more states are added — there were 21 at the flag’s inception in 1889 — more stars are included to expand the showcase of that historic evening’s sky. (Nerdy Bonus Fact: The stars are intentionally reversed from the way someone in Rio might see them, as the designers wanted the flag to represent the view of Rio from someone far away in space.)